When thinking about how to come up with more referrals from your client roster, perhaps a seemingly counterintuitive approach is the best: Stop asking clients for them and start thanking clients for the referrals they’ve given — whether they’ve given any or not. Two words — thank you — go a long way.
Top advisors have all manner of strategies for securing those all-important referrals from current clients, but one thing they seem to agree on is the need for referrals to become part of the process.
“Most advisors don’t have a referral strategy,” says Ken Unger, president of Million Dollar Producer Inc. (www.mdproducer.com), based in Roseville, Calif. “They think, ‘You’re my client and I expect you to give me referrals. I’ve earned them.’ That’s not strategic enough.”Simply saying “I ask for referrals” doesn’t cut it, according to the experts. That leaves room to overlook the act of asking, say, if a window of opportunity doesn’t open. When the query arises is going to be different for each advisor, but it usually comes down to a matter of trust.
“If you’re not comfortable with presenting people with a referral card on the first visit, do it later,” says Brian Maroevich, owner of Insurance-Leads-Advisor.com in Novato, Calif. “But you have to do it. At the point when you have their trust, do it.”
Gaining that trust is vital, and getting there isn’t easy. Maroevich says advisors have to give clients a unique experience from the first phone call, because providing a plan might be enough to get someone’s money but it might not be enough to earn referrals.
“People aren’t going to refer you just because you do a good job,” Maroevich says. “Twenty thousand advisors can do a good job. If advisors position themselves in a unique way, they are going to get more referrals.”
Unger says creating that unique experience boils down to three big-picture criteria:
- Provide an unbeatable level of service.
- Provide a high level of expertise.
- Maintain a high level of visibility.
Advisors should be willing to do more than they have to, Unger says. If that means knowing the best health care provider, dry cleaner, grocery store and pizza joint in the area — in addition to knowing financial products and how to place them in a solid plan — find out what those are. If that means meeting certain clients in their home instead of in the office, it will pay dividends. Whatever it takes.
“It’s not just words,” Unger counsels, “It’s action.”
Once those actions have paid off and trust has been established, it’s time to ask for referrals. Part of some advisors’ process of earning referrals — yes, they do still ask newer clients — is helping clients remember the names and numbers of their friends and family. By using a worksheet broken out into various categories of acquaintances, it helps them dig out that information stored in the database of their brains.
Some of the groups on that worksheet include neighbors, friends and children; church, club and association members; golf buddies; and centers of influence. People are much more apt to remember names when they can think in terms of how they know other people. And even if they can’t remember phone numbers, copy the worksheet for the client, send them home with a copy and give them three or four days to retrieve the numbers, at which point they know you are going to call them. It’s just all part of the process.
Be seen and heard
As important as having a process is, it can all fall apart if an advisor becomes an afterthought. Financial professionals have to remain visible to clients, whether that means face-to-face meetings, newsletters, conference calls, seminars, client events or any other manner of reaching out and touching the people responsible for their success.
“If you’re meeting with clients once a year [and not touching them otherwise], why would they refer you?” Unger asks. “Putting together a plan or meeting their needs isn’t enough.”